Tamiya Corporation is beloved for its vast range of plastic model kits and R/C models, stretching right back to the 1950s.
But as its reputation for quality grew during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Tamiya also became a marketing powerhouse that produced a lot of accessories, souvenirs and other items. Here are a few unusual things I’ve been lucky to find over the years.
So I’ve been away for a while… quite a while. Sincere apologies about that. Almost a year to the day (disgraceful!). Rest assured, I’m still around. Life and work just get in the way these days. But my love of 1980s R/C models, toys, films, books and many other things… never ends.
Speaking of which… I’ve been collecting some other fun retro pop-culture bits and pieces, over the months. There’s such a boom in retro revivals right now. From films, to toys, cartoons, books and more. I feel like this retro 70s/80s/90s boom has been rolling on for quite a few years now, as I was blogging about it 7 years ago. And it was well underway by then, too. We might as well enjoy it while it lasts.
For me, some of my other collecting passions include retro Hot Wheels models, Lego Space sets, 80s and 90s sci-fi films and novels, 80s and 90s video games, and even some classic 80s sci-fi and fantasy cartoons. If any of these topics sound like fun and you’d like reading about my finds or memories etc – let me know in the comments. I’d always intended for this blog to be about “R/C cars and other 80s toys and things“. But I didn’t want to annoy anyone expecting to only read vintage R/C stories.
Of course, I still buy vintage R/C items too. Quite a few in the past year actually. Vintage R/C will always be the #1 poison that I can’t resist. And while my collection now contains most of the R/C items I had wanted to own, a collector never stops hunting for treasure…
Which brings me to the subject of Tamiya’s R/C souvenirs. Do you own any? I’m talking about the plethora of little promotional items and souvenirs produced over the years. While all R/C companies produced various “swag” and souvenirs, by far the most prolific company to do this during the 80s and 90s, was Tamiya.
Tamiya’s famously lavish product catalogues first began to incorporate items at the periphery of their main model kits, toys and spare parts, sometime in the 1980s as far as I can tell. Their range first began to expand into hobby tools, equipment, glues and of course their famous paints. Soon after that you started to see other novelties and accessories appear – T-shirts, caps, posters, stickers and the like. And today, some of these have become fairly desirable R/C memorabilia items themselves.
Now, I definitely don’t have as many of these as some of the Tamiya mega-collectors out there. But every collection is unique, so I do have a few unusual items, some that are pretty rare. Perhaps the rarest item I have is the Tamiya First 100 Cars poster that I wrote about a couple of years ago. But let’s look at some other things that I think are pretty unusual and that you might now have seen before…
First though, I wanted to share perhaps the most unusual Tamiya souvenir I can ever recall seeing. I don’t actually own this myself. But did you know that around the time of the 2011 Shizuoka Hobby Show, Tamiya sold… food?
Yes. For a limited time, Tamiya Corporation actually sold bread. And biscuits. Called “Can Bread” and “Army Biscuits”, if anyone still has these items they must be past expiry by now. I believe they were created as a novelty in support of Tamiya’s vast range of military model kits. Hence – these treats were styled as long-lasting army snacks.
If you’d like to know all the details about them (including how they tasted), visit this website. For now though, here are some other less bizarre Tamiya R/C souvenirs I do own…
Tamiya Monster Beetle Jigsaw Puzzle
I first time I ever saw this little gem, it was actually sitting on the shelf of a hobby store I visited in Sydney in about 2007. I asked if it was for sale, but it wasn’t. Seemingly a promotional item for the Monster Beetle that presumably dates back to its original release in 1986, the store owner was not willing at all to let this one go. And being a Monster Beetle fan myself, this answer was not satisfactory 😅But I accepted defeat that day, and moved on.
Then a few years later, I got lucky and managed to acquire another one. And while a small handful of them have also turned up in the collections of other various collectors over the years, they’re definitely not something you see often…
The puzzle comes in a sealed “can” similar to the kind you buy pressurized tennis balls in. Which itself strikes me as a very odd way to package a cardboard jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle itself is 38x26cm and features the image you see on the can.
What’s also odd about this is that you might suspect Tamiya made a few of these puzzle cans various popular models – but no. To the best of my knowledge, while they they did release smaller jigsaw sets in the 80s for a couple of other R/C cars, these came in little boxes. This is the only large one that came in a can. (Please correct me if I’m wrong).
While I’ll never open mine, if you’d like to see more photos head over to this showroom by Crash-Chris on Tamiyaclub, to see the puzzle in all its glory.
Tamiya Corner Pylons
Back in 2007, I had the good fortune to find this very limited item sold by Tamiya – item #53491 “Corner Pylons”. In Australia we often refer to them as “witches hats” or “traffic cones”…
Basically, these were packets of orange plastic markers to drive your R/C cars around – great if you need to quickly set up a track route on an empty lot. They’re not as big as the type you see on real roads, and are more appropriate for 1/10 R/C models – though they are still a lot bigger than “actual scale” size would be (like the little cones that came with certain releases of the Jet Hopper).
I think I actually bought these at retail when I got them, but I can’t quite remember where I got them. I think it was from a store that had an unusually high number of cool Tamiya accessories. Either way, I managed to get several packets of them. But they are now long since discontinued, and as far as I can tell – extremely hard to find.
Tamiya made hundreds of different stickers to promote its brand and products over the years, and continues to do so to this day. I have a variety of them. But while looking through all the ones I had accumulated, I realized there were a few that are probably more scarce than others. Such as…
“Team Lotus with Tamiya”
Back in the early 1990s Tamiya was an official sponsor of the Lotus Formula One team. These were the latter days of Team Lotus, and the car was only mildly successful during this era. But as mentioned in the 2001 biography Master Modeler, Shunsaku Tamiya established such a close and supportive relationship with Team Lotus that they still enjoyed a successful partnership during this time. This sticker commemorates the 1991 F1 season, with the flags indicating the location of the races that year…
“Tamiya Grand Prix Official Committee”
Speaking of Grands Prix… Tamiya used to hold official Grand Prix R/C events of its own at its headquarters in Shizuoka. I am not sure if they still host these events, but this sticker commemorates the event in 1989. Which is fun because any little R/C artifacts from the “golden” era of the 1980s are nice to have…
And lastly, I can’t recall seeing that many Christmas-themed stickers or promotions from Tamiya. If you have any, it would be fun to see them also. This is just a rare one that I have not seen before or since…
Tamiya “MOKOchan RABBIkun Piggy Bank”
I’m only a casual fan of manga and anime, but I know enough to realize that a lot of the fun “character” we have always enjoyed from Tamiya’s classic 1980s off-road vehicles was inspired by manga and anime – in some cases quite directly. For example, I believe there were some early Japanese anime characters that inspired the likes of “Wild Willy” – the energetic little driver figure you see piloting Tamiya’s famous Jeep R/C car from 1983.
Meanwhile, appearing throughout a lot of Tamiya’s printed material through the 1980s were the manga characters Moko-chan and Rabbi-kun – a little girl and her rabbit friend, going on zany adventures as they interacted with various Tamiya vehicles and products. This little “piggy bank” was a rare item I found one day which presumably could be used to save up coins to buy your next Tamiya kit!
Tamiya Wild Willy Willys’ M38 t-shirt
And speaking of the Wild Willy… how about an original t-shirt?
Some years ago I was lucky enough to obtain several extremely rare, early, promotional cotton t-shirts for some of Tamiya’s 1980s R/C cars. These are really gorgeous, colourful items. And as you can see, this one is still in the packet.
I think, given the fragility of these, I’d actually like to get them nicely framed for display on my wall one day. What do you think?
So, that’s all for now.
Do you own any interesting, rare promotional items from Tamiya? Or any other R/C brands? Or have you been buying any fun retro memorabilia lately, related to toys, films, cartoons or video games? Feel free to share in the comments below. Or contact me via the contact page if you need help logging in, or just want to say “hi”.
As always, happy collecting!
Another really cool article mate, glad to hear from ya 🙂
..also thought you may have mentioned the Tamiya coffee can models, I have a few but this is NOT my picture..
Ah yes the coffee cup models. I know them well 🙂 I have a few also. Unsure if I have the complete set, but I’m possibly close.
I always love reading your stories about the golden days of r/c and the rarity your posts make them more valuable.. they are well researched and thought out. Kudos to you.
I for one think delving into other 80s/90s toys is a great idea. Anyone who complains is a sook 🤪 .
Please keep up the good work. And remember there always people eagerly awaiting a email notification from rc toy memories 👍
Thanks Hayden, I really appreciate the kind words 🙂
always a pleasure to read your well researched blogs. I’ve been around since 2018 enjoy the reference value you have made for us maturing RC heads.
I like others would enjoy a trip back to the 80s/90s with other examples of collectables etc..Like my collection, it’s vast and varied and covers all my childhood, plus tracking down things I always wanted but missed out on.
I still have my Wild Willy shirt NIP..(New In Plastic) and like you it needs to be protected by a frame. Makes a great display and gives it a nice long term safe home. I’m nervous that one day I will open it and see the dreaded silverfish having a banquet underneath.
Oh Wow Dean.
Super Armatron !….what a stash you have
Really appreciate the comments Dean, and nice to hear from you too! Yes, I do think those old shirts should be preserved – they are really nice display pieces too. If we can get them framed, I can’t think of another R/C collector who has done that, so far…
Your collection is looking fantastic too, and IIRC that’s only one portion of it!
And thanks for the feedback. I will look into broadening the topics I write about – still likely centering on vintage R/C cars, but branching out into some of my other retro toy, film and pop-culture passions. Truth be told, I’ve always done bits of this. Just wanted to make sure it wouldn’t annoy anyone.
I also have NIB Mobile Armatron too with all the other Armatron releases. They are one of my favourite Radio Shack (Tandy) items. Really enjoy repairing their intricate gear systems.
Ah wow. You’re inspiring me to finally fix up my Radio Shack Z-707 Battle Iron Claw tank. Or I should say “tanks”… (as I sit here, I can see three of them in boxes on my shelves). None of the ones I have are perfect, so I really must get them out and see what I can do. It was originally made by Taiyo, and I have in the past seen the original Taiyo version too, but it’s fairly rare.
I always wanted an Armatron, and have had my chances to get one over the years… but never quite took the plunge.
G’day Rob 😃
yes I have a little extra as you know 🤣
I’ve been restoring some Tomy 3D handhelds and looking at doing a Pi-4 with LED screens in my Coleco handhelds. Update them with custom emulators and new buttons/joystick. I’ve been having a huge time in the retro gaming world of roms and emulators with a custom arcade set up.
I don’t want to bombard this site with pics but the collection of vintage games and handhelds is looking very sorted now. Lots of work but very satisfying when the project is finished.
Tomy made so many incredible toys. Awesome collection. I assume you have the Tomy Racing Turbo as well?
I have a couple of Turbo’s as one is a parts donor. Once again the design is fantastic. They are pretty cool fun 🤣
BMW M1 RC Nikko 1981
I want that so badly 🥲 Think of me, if you ever sell it.
Thank you Rob for a well written piece – Tamiya have certainly released some odd ball items (the bread) .
It was a pleasure reading your article great to see you still enthusiastic and passionate about all things RC .
I’m still collecting but have slowed down to focus on pop culture 😬
Stuart -aka Swarm
Regional NSW .
Such an astounding collection Stu, and great to hear you are still active too. And funny that you’re also into some pop-culture items, a bit like me.
LoL …I’m waiting impatiently for the Hot toys 1/6 Delorean mk2 and 1/6 Blitzway Ecto-1 Afterlife to be delivered 🙄
Fantastic Stuart 🤤